Spousal Support Attorneys, Houston TX
When it comes to spousal support, Texas is a difficult state for spouses to convince a court to award any sort of alimony (more commonly referred to as alimony). There is a significant burden of proof on the spouse asking for spousal support upon the final dissolution of marriage. The situation has been further complicated by the recent overhaul of the Federal Tax Code, which eliminates the deduction for the payor and requires the receiver to report these payments as income.
Types of Spousal Support
There are two primary kinds of spousal support in Texas. The first is contractual support and the second is court-ordered spousal maintenance. The former is usually an agreement between the two parties, and there are few requirements on contractual support. The court must still approve of the arrangement, but generally speaking, spouses can agree to any number of financial arrangements under the guise of contractual spousal support.
Court ordered support, on the other hand, is limited. First, the spouse has to show the court that, upon final dissolution, there will not be enough property or assets for the spouse to meet their own minimum reasonable needs. Then, they must also prove at least one of the following:
- That the marriage has lasted at least 10 years;
- The other spouse has committed family violence;
- The spouse asking for support has a disability that arose during the marriage; or
- There is a child of the marriage who has a disability which prevents the requesting spouse to earn sufficient income outside the home.
Additionally, when the spouse is asking for support after the divorce in a 10-year marriage, they must show that they continued to work or diligently look for work that would enable them to support themselves. In other words, do not quit your job during the divorce and bank on the fact that the court will order spousal support.
How Much Spousal Support Will I Pay, Receive?
There are statutory caps on court-ordered spousal maintenance in Texas. The spouse cannot be ordered to pay over $5,000.00 per month or 20 percent of the spouse’s average monthly gross income, whichever is lower. For high net worth estates, this can be a low cap. That is where contractual alimony comes into play. Parties can agree to have an additional award on top of the court-ordered award, particularly if the parties had enjoyed a very high standard of living prior to the divorce.
Spousal Support Time Limits
Texas courts are required to limit court-ordered maintenance to the shortest reasonable time to ensure the recipient spouse has enough money to meet their minimum needs until they can support themselves. There are caps on the length of time a spouse is required to pay court-ordered maintenance. If there was family violence, and the marriage was less than 10 years, then the limit is 5 years. If the marriage was between 10-20 years, then the limitation is also 5 years. Longer terms marriages, from 20-30 years, might have a spousal maintenance award of up to 7 years. Couples married longer than 30 years are entitled to a maintenance award of up to 10 years. However, if spousal maintenance is awarded due to either a disability of the spouse or a child of the marriage, there is no time limit. The maintenance will last for as long as that spouse or child is disabled.
Additional Factors Affecting Spousal Support Orders
There are additional factors the court will consider when determining how long and the amount of spousal maintenance which should be ordered. Under Section 8.052 of the Texas Family Code, the court must consider all relevant factors including:
- Each spouse’s ability to provide for that spouse’s minimum reasonable needs;
- The education and skills of the spouses, or any time required for a spouse to get the skills necessary to earn sufficient income;
- The length of the marriage;
- Age, employment history, earning ability and the physical or emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance;
- The effect on the ability to pay while providing child support or other court-ordered payments;
- Acts of a spouse resulting in excessive or abnormal expenditures, or destruction or concealment of community property;
- The contribution by one spouse to the education and training of another;
- Property brought to the marriage by either spouse;
- Contributions to the marriage of a spouse as the homemaker;
- Marital misconduct;
- Or family violence.
Seeking Legal Advice or Representation?
We can provide you guidance and answer the questions you might have as to whether or not you are entitled to spousal maintenance or if you may be obligated to pay. Depending on your circumstances, we can ensure you are taken care of after the marriage and advocate for your right to maintenance. We can also defend against any requests by your spouse for support after the divorce.